If art aims to capture those childlike epiphanies we all had after discovering something new about the world, then the best and most-enduring music comes from somewhere near that place. When a song captures in just three-and-a half minutes, that feeling of awe at everything, then the music - the art - has done its job. It is this "vital" place MUTEMATH needed find again. And they needed to find it on their own. The greatest gift to MUTEMATH might just be that this time out, there is no label, there was no management, no producer. There was no "executive opinion" before the music was fully formed.
"You want to always rediscover the reason you started doing this in the first place," says MUTEMATH's singer and primary songwriter Paul Meany. "This album is the one we've been dying to make all along. We found the album that is right for this band and for this band now."
"We knew we had to self-produce this one," says Darren King, the band's drummer. "This was an album for us that couldn't happen properly unless we were willing to roll up our sleeves and dive into all of the creation and sculpting that comes with bringing an album from its inception to the very end. It was really important for us to give ourselves a chance to find the sounds and songs that represent where we are right now."
"Now" is a word that comes up again and again when speaking with the four members of MUTEMATH. Now, if you ask any one of them, is precisely where they've been reaching for all along.
"I feel it's a rebirth, for sure", says Roy Mitchell-CÃ¡rdenas, the band's guitarist, and most-often bassist. "I'm extremely excited and proud of how Vitals came out. It's some of our best songwriting. We're really shooting for a higher level with this record."
But with MUTEMATH, this genuine all-or-nothing approach is so abundant everywhere on this, the band's fourth full-length, that even a newcomer to the band will sense the urgency and the high stakes. You don't even have to take their word for it. You can hear it in every single note of the songs they've made.
Nothing has been particularly easy on the band these past four years since 2011's Odd Soul. They parted ways with their label, they changed management, and replaced a band member. Add to that the marriages, births, deaths, and an eventual panic attack that had Meany hiding in the bathroom of his own home as his wife and newborn daughter slept. Thankfully, that night led to a song instead of a hospital visit.
Meany sings above thick, oceanic synth swells of "Composed" sounding every bit like the undulating undertow he fought off that evening to swim and find the far shore: "I have said to myself in a mirror's company/Who's that panicked stranger on his knees?" He arrives at gratitude and awareness for the thing's he has and pledges, finally, to keep moving forward: "You keep my head composed/You keep my head afloat."
Whether he is addressing his wife and daughter, or the music that has provided him his life's purpose for so many years (or all three) the evidence of triumph is all over Vitals, an album of stadium-sized hooks designed to reach rafters, yet delivered from deep within the smallest caverns of this band's very soul.
"I feel completely drained and completely relieved," Meany says, with Vitals completed and on its way out into the world. "It's an extremely rewarding experience. We don't take this lightly and I don't think we're very flippant with what it means for the people that want to hear this music. We try to deliver our best. We put our all into it. And even though this record takes a chance for us, it stays true to where and why we started".
Everyone in the band agrees that Vitals became an album the day they wrote "Monument." It's a song that rejoices in the present, refusing to wait for something to be gone in order to celebrate it. It is the center that holds this ambitious collection together.
"A monument usually signifies a memorialization for what is no more," Meany explains. "This song is about taking control of the moments we still have, while we still have them together. The threat of an ending is nothing to be afraid of, but something that can be turned into beauty and serve as a vibrant means to keep moving forward."
MUTEMATH's Vitals is the sound of a band reborn, rediscovering just why they must make music by making it for themselves, above and beyond the interference of anyone (or anything) else. A collection of songs that would not exist if it were not for the four members of the band demanding only the best of themselves so that what they deliver to the world isn't just more noise, but something that does nothing less than find a certain harmony in the world and in themselves.
The only thing left is for you to hear it, knowing that you provide the final piece that completes this long labor of struggle and eventual triumph. All art is a gift. Vitals by MUTEMATH is for you, me, everyone. This time out, the band is unafraid, refusing to hide behind unnecessary subtleties and striving for that universal chord that resides in us all. Sometimes it takes a decade. Sometimes it never happens. For MUTEMATH, it happens now.